Gardening with native plants offer TONS of benefits compared to nonnatives and ornamentals.

Not only is it lower effort than maintaining an ornamental garden, it's often much more rewarding! After your native garden establishes, you notice a huge uptick in fascinating insects, bugs, birds, and reptiles! Growing natives in conjunction with food and herb gardens also increases yeilds! Soil microbes and pollinator insects flock to native plants, and often keep away pests!




Guerrilla gardening is an easy and fun way that YOU, as an individual, can make a huge difference in your community! It means gardening with native plants in the forgotten curbside medians and roadside ditches, the roundabouts, the neglected planter boxes, the patches of dead shit that gets overlooked! The urban/suburban wasteland is your oyster!!



RESEARCH! I've compiled a list of resources on the right sidebar! Find your area on a map, and off you go! If I don't have enough to help you on this page, your answers likely lie only a couple google searches away. Most states and countries have Native Plant Societies, so be sure to check those out for a good place to begin!


Aquiring the seeds! Once you've got your biome down pat (either through your Native Plant Society website, iNaturalist, or other trusted resource), you're free to shop online for plants that will do well in your (likely full sun and poor soil) target areas. I ALWAYS start with seeds! You're going to have a bit more of a wait time with gardening from seed, but it's well worth it compared to buying something from a nursery that won't survive the transplant.
PRO TIP: Many native seeds require STRATIFICATION. This is an adaption to your local environment where a seed won't sprout until it's either been chilled, burned (hooray for fire ecology!), or chewed. Check your seed guide (or google it) to make sure. Planting in fall is usually your best bet if you're too lazy to DIY stratify.
Are you broke as shit? Seeds run expensive, I know. The best thing you can do, sans wallet, is take a hike. Literally. See what's growing in your area, collect as many NATIVE seeds as you can (please make sure you're not collecting invasives.) Late summer through early fall are the best times to collect native seeds. Look for brown scraggly flowerheads, fallen acorns, and cracked open seed pods! These seeds will likely do better than anything else in your area. Once your seeds are collected, go out and...


START PLANTING! Whether you're going for wildflowers or trees, you're GOING to make a difference! There are a few things to keep in mind when you're doing your illicit gardening, however. Some tips for the guerrilla gardener:
  • Aquire a hi-vis vest and a landscaper-esque ballcap. The biggest threat to your guerrilla gardening is other people thinking you're up to no good. Look the part of an experienced-but-bored landscaper, and you practically become invisible.
  • Aquire landscaping flags! Yknow those little stick-in plastic flags? The colors have specific meanings, but for our purposes, any will do. If you don't want your shit to get dug up, slap some flags where you've planted and usually they won't get mowed/dug/herbicided. Usually. These are also helpful for remembering where you've planted.
  • Don't get discouraged by time! Native plants usually grow slowly, so you won't see much change until the second year, when the plants are fully established. Your patience will be well rewarded.
  • Don't get discouraged by vandals! If your plants got mowed over or ripped up or sprayed with Roundup, don't feel bad! You can always try again and again.
  • If you're planting trees, tying the saplings up between two poles usually keeps them from getting fucked with. It looks a lot more official with the poles.
  • If anybody asks you what you're doing (or tells you to fuck off), tell them you're beautifying the community or some shit. Because you are. :)


Strictly speaking, yes, this does constitute tresspassing. BUT! Guerrilla gardening is a crime often overlooked for the service it provides the community. If a neighborhood Homeowners Association tries to get on your ass about native plant restoration, just remember they can't stop you if they don't see you. You're simply picking up the slack on neglected areas and urban eyesores! If you happen to be some sort of social butterfly, oftentimes you'll find asking your local government, HOA, or landowners politely will yeild great things! They're usually happy to let you restore the landscape with natives.




DISCLAIMER: This is NOT an invitation for you to go burning shit down without the express permission and supervision of your local fire department.
If you live anywhere near the west coast, Canada, or Australia, you've probably heard about fire ecology! Many ecological communities have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to rely on periodic low-burning fires to maintain biodiversity and combat diseases, pests, and soil degradation. Many plant species require fire to germinate dormant seeds, establish themselves without competition from taller plants, and to reproduce. The native people in many regions where fire plays a key role teach that starting controlled fires is essential for a healthy ecosystem. Amongst the Miwok and Paiute tribes where I live, controlled burns were also used as an effective hunting strategy. Unfortunately, in these centuries of colonization, many American Indian tribes lost their right to steward the land they own, and fire surpression campaigns' grip on public attitudes has lead to where we are now.


From Wikipedia, "Wildfire suppression campaigns in the United States have historically molded public opinion to believe that wildfires are harmful to nature. Ecological research has shown, however, that fire is an integral component in the function and biodiversity of many natural habitats, and that the organisms within these communities have adapted to withstand, and even to exploit, natural wildfire. More generally, fire is now regarded as a 'natural disturbance', similar to flooding, windstorms, and landslides, that has driven the evolution of species and controls the characteristics of ecosystems."
Fire surpression has wreaked untold havoc on North America and Australia, where it directly leads to buildup of dry, dead plant matter (which has evolved over thousands, sometimes millions, of years to encourage and fuel fires with volatile oils and resins to help their seeds propogate.) and close-cropped forests, creating what are called "fuel ladders" for wildfires. The disastrous megafires in Australia, Greece, Candada, and the U.S. were direct results of decades of fire surpression. There's a great storymaps article with more detailed information on how and why these have happened & what we're doing about them.


Fresh burns, even the most severe ones, almost always make way for a new generation of plant and animal life. A broad pattern of regrowth is common in fire adapted ecosystems wherein the fastest growing plants to sprout are shade intolerant herbacious plants and grasses. In the successive years, woody plants begin taking root again, often shrubs, conifers, and deciduous trees. For a more in-depth look, check out University of Chicago's "Ecological Succession Explained"article.


There are two main things you can do to help rectify the whole shitshow: Show up to city hall meetings and go out and connect with your local native plant society. These may seem like boring or ineffective solutions to a very desperate problem, but in my experience, even ONE person showing up and asking about prescribed burns really REALLY makes a difference.
I would honestly recommend connecting with your Native Plant Society as a first step; a large organization dedicated to native plants and ecology is a great place to meet master gardeners, folks in the forestry service, and resources that are probably already established doing EXACTLY what you're trying to do. Chances are, a lot of these folks will direct you right to city hall! These organizations sometimes gather to get motions passed to allocate funding for habitat restoration or protection, and it's wonderful to have a community behind you with the same goal. If your Native Plant Society can't connect you to resources you're looking for, look to community colleges! You'll find no shortage of helpful folks who will help you if you ask around.
The MOST IMPORTANT thing to remember is to not lose hope!!! Our world may seem like it's burning away before your eyes, but the tides of environmental conciousness are rapidly changing! This is not something we're fighting alone, and despite any sense of impending climate doom, it's NEVER too late. Doing ANYTHING will always be better than doing nothing.


I just needed a spot to word vomit about plants LOL


Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
I think nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) are one common american garden plant that I can 100% get behind. Originating from Chile and central america, it's got a lot of properties that make it desirable in everyday gardens; chief amongst them being their ease of propogation and tolerance to poor soil. Every time I start a new garden plot, nasturtiums are the first to be sown.

The way the plant works is actually pretty cool; Tropaeolum is the only genus in its family, Tropaeolacea, and after its flowers are fertilized, it uses a lot of its energy to form large seeds packed with energy for the young sprout to feed off of if its new habitat proves challenging. The parent plants also have a way of fixing nitrogen into the soil, which improves its quality for other plants after it dies or goes dormant! When the leaves and stems break down, they release all that potassium, nitrogen, and calcium as viable nutrients for other plants to use. Some species of the Tropaeolum genus only go dormant, while others die off seasonally and reseed for a new generation. I think T. tuberosa and T. polyphyllum are two species that store their energy into tubers below ground and re-emerge every spring to begin flowering again. There are probably more that I don't even know about! South america's plant diversity is a thing that near constantly boggles the mind.

Nasturtiums are also delicious! They actually have the highest lutien carotenoid levels of any leafy green (carotenoids are very good for the heart!) and taste a lot like a mix of parsley and watercress. You can eat every part of the above-ground plant, but the flowers make the most visual impact in a salad. I've heard they taste like capers when used as a condiment, but I don't like capers so I'll just take their word for it.

I have a nasty habit of bitterly despising overly common garden plants like mums and azaleas. My reasoning being that where I live (although its not as bad as other places) there has been severe ecological devastation brought on by development, and California's ecology is varied and diverse like nowhere else on earth; there are so SO many plants that are endemic to just the central valley alone, and they survive with the barest minimum care! But people and institutions seem to be blind to them in favor of these high maintenence imported ornamental shits that require SO MUCH water usage to keep alive in our hot ceaseless sunshine. They plant these and demand more and more from nurseries to the point that they're the only ones that nurseries sell to keep people happy and it SUCKS! They're shit plants! They're nonnative, they don't do anything to help our native and endemic pollinators, birds, bats, bees or otherwise, and they just keep draining our limited water supply, I just... Gah. I hate them. Nasturtiums though? They're not native and most certainly overplanted as hell, but they're cute, they support pollinators, they're EASY, and they're colorful. I would say I "tolerate" them, but given how much I've come to look forward to their presence in my garden, I'd say they've won a spot in my heart.


On the subject of nitrogen capture, the Fabaceae family (which is more familiar to me, sorry Tropaeolacea!) fix nitrogen into the soil by their roots; chloroplasts in the leaves and stems respire and capture the nitrogen and carbon dioxide from the air, and while the co2 is used for making energy for the plant, the nitrogen is transferred to the roots in little dense nutrient packets called "nodules" used to facilitate connections to existing soil fungi and microbes. These nodules are where nitrogen is reduced to amino acids that are then moved to the roots or new above-ground growth. (You can actually see these nodules with the naked eye! They look like little white lumps attached at the roots, most easily seen when pulling up any common pea-family plant. (Lupinus is obviously my favorite example)) They form and maintain these connections with fungi as a fallback survival mechanism AND as a boost to their regular metabolism; the fungi and ecosystem around them often benefit from the exchange as well! Fabacious plants (though not universally) are effective and widespread survivalists for just this reason.